Analysis: Donald Trump Redux – What Complications Might Arise?

Analysis: Donald Trump Redux – What Complications Might Arise?

Trump’s return may complicate three other issues: the Ukraine war; climate change commitments; and Gaza hostilities and possibility of an Israel-Palestine peace accord

K C SinghUpdated: Friday, March 08, 2024, 07:15 PM IST
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Former US President Donald Trump | File Photo

Karl Marx famously stated that history repeats itself, “first as tragedy, second as farce”. That maxim may be proven by former US president Donald Trump’s renomination as presidential candidate by the Republican Party and possible win. The farcical nature is self-evident as simultaneously Trump faces civil and criminal cases, especially over his alleged abetment of the January 6, 2021 mob invasion of Capitol Hill, the seat of US Congress.

Last year Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s memoir, titled Never Give An Inch, was released. His experiences read like an aberration in a long collapsed Trumpian universe. Their relevance has increased as new polls indicate Trump’s lead over incumbent President Joe Biden. The Times/Sienna poll interestingly shows that when the 2020 election voters were asked if they would vote for the same candidates again, 97% of Trump’s voters said yes. Of Biden’s voters 83% so affirmed. In fact, 10% of Biden’s previous supporters have shifted to his Republican opponent.

Pompeo’s innings began as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2017-18. He then moved to the more high-profile post of Secretary of State, and held it for the rest of the Trump presidency (2018-21). Being one of the few high-level appointees to retain the confidence of an idiosyncratic president relishing a high-fatality environment for his cabinet members, he may return to another important assignment if Trump wins. Pompeo's account of the main foreign policy themes of the Trump presidency demonstrates one obvious feature. President Joe Biden’s foreign policy presents more continuity than change on multiple Trumpian policy preferences. It includes the rebirth and elevation to summit level of the four-nation QUAD, consisting of Australia. India, Japan and the US. Except on climate change and support to the European alliance system,which Trump degraded. Some policy elements have been overtaken by subsequent events like the Ukraine War and Gaza hostilities.

One common theme has been a more competitive China policy, to contain it and dent access to high technology. Chapter 10 of Pompeo's book is titled Tell The Hard Truth. The 2017 US National Security Strategy called China a “revisionist power”, wanting to “shape a world antithetical to US values and interests”. Pompeo claims he dealt with Chinese President Xi Jinping with the same forthrightness. This is because the US surmised that the post-1972 Henry Kissinger- Richard Nixon thesis, that engaging China and helping its economy would move it towards liberal democratic values, had failed. China’s threat to the western world is seen as multiple fold. This ranges from the challenge presented by telecommunications companies like Huawei, to Chinese advances in 5G, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, semiconductors and quantum computing.

The new US bi-partisan consensus running through the Trump and Biden presidencies is that China is a threat to existing global security and technological order, built by the western nations post-World War II. Trump’s return as president is unlikely to alter this basic premise. The US desire to engage closely with India flows from this desire. In Beijing alarm bells may be ringing especially during slowing economic growth.

Trump’s return may complicate three other issues: the Ukraine war; climate change commitments; and Gaza hostilities and possibility of an Israel-Palestine peace accord. Trump has single-handedly stymied economic and military aid to Ukraine by rallying opposition to it in the Republican Party. His comments about letting NATO members suffer the consequences of deficient defence preparedness has rattled allies. As did his claim that he could end the Ukraine war quickly, seen as kowtowing to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Ukraine fears that a Trump presidency may force it to accept a Russia-compliant status quo. The recent Russian advances into Ukrainian-held territory would encourage the Russians to not seek a ceasefire until the November US presidential election.

Trump’s return would also complicate the Palestinian issue considerably. During his presidency the US tilted more distinctly towards Israel. For instance, a languishing 1995 US Congress law to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital was implemented and the US embassy shifted without any corresponding progress in settling the Palestinian issue. Similarly, the Abraham Accords, normalising relations between Israel and Bahrain as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), were initiated during August 13-September 11, 2020. They rested on the smug assumption that an anti-Iran coalition could be created while relegating the Palestinian issue to oblivion. The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 unravelled this hypothesis. Ironically Biden may lose the presidential election because the youth and minorities are upset over his inability or unwillingness to restrain the Israeli massacre of civilians and their herding under inhumane conditions. Trump in power may give Israel an even longer leash. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like Putin, may delay ending hostilities and disorderly occupation of Gaza until the US election.

Thus the US election’s outcome can have serious consequences globally. India’s neighbours must similarly be viewing the implications of the Indian Lok Sabha polls.

KC Singh is former secretary, Ministry of External Affairs

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